Monday, September 30, 2013

Hold my hand, babbling and macaroons.

1. Alec sidles up to Maggie and asks if he can hold her hand.

2. We come across Anna's husband and tall blonde daughters. Alec is overcome by shyness and won't speak, but when they have gone he insists that he needs to say hallo to them. We run into them again and I prod him until he says his piece. He releases a breathless miscellany of chatter -- not sure if it's nerves or a sort of toddler bravado.

3. 'Take them out of the fridge half an hour before,' says the chef as he hands me the box of macarons. 'Otherwise they won't be soft -- I like them much better that way.' He seems anxious that I should enjoy his work in the correct way. I like my macaroons soft, too -- and I'm sure the flavours are better developed at room temperature. Two of them are sitting on a plate as I write this. I had to tell Nick off for trying to eat his too soon.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Found it, on the farm and coming up smelling of roses.

1. Finding a thing that everyone has been looking for. (Bathroom doorstop, in the laundry basket, where we'd all looked at least twice).

2. 'There's a hippamapotamus,' an awe-struck Alec tells me, pointing to the pig in the children's farm.

3. I was dubious -- but the meringue I've just bought really does taste of rosewater.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Falling downstairs, early supper and new boots.

1. The whumph sound of cushions falling down the stairs: I'm bringing them down so that I can help Alec build a tent in the front room.

2. After 4pm to find a place that will make me a sandwich. The steak baguette is delicious and it's quiet enough that Bettany can snooze on the sofa beside me. I even get to dip into the poetry collection I have in my bag.

3. To take the bits of cardboard and tissue out of a new pair of boots.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Homegrown, good taste and posy.

1. To serve my own homegrown tomatoes for lunch.

2. Meredith brings my favourite sort of muffin (raspberry and white chocolate) to our gaming session. (By the way, Meredith has opened an Etsy shop selling her one-of-a-kind beaded bracelets. Her excellent taste extends beyond muffindom so grab 'em while they're still available!)

3. I spot a withered posy of weedy flowers on a shelf at nursery -- I'm glad Alec isn't the only child who insists on bringing a flower or two in with him.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Can't see, dignity and just one conker.

1. I can't see what Alec and his friend are doing -- I'm stuck on the nursing chair under Bettany -- but I can hear the staccato giggling. "What's happening?" I ask my friend who is standing in the hall so she can watch them and talk to me.
"They're copying each other," she says.

2. When the teacher asks everyone to come up and get something from her bag Alec's face lights up -- for the last two lessons she has had flags as well as sparkly wands. But this week she has no flags. His expression drops and he turns his back on her.
"I'll put a wand on the edge of your mat," she says. "I really am very sorry, I picked up a different bag this week."
He ignores her offering and his face is stony. There is no tantrum and he doesn't ask to nurse (his usual cure-all for small troubles), which makes me feel even sorrier for him. After a bit he asks if he can cuddle Bettany. I am so proud of his dignity and the calm way he sits with his disappointment.

3. To use Alec's stick to knock just one conker out of the tree. The case was split but the nut was not quite ripe -- it still had a white chocolate-coloured splot on it that darkened to brown by bedtime.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A decent human being, reader and why I like her.

1. "Bringing another decent human being into the world is the most important thing you can do," says our neighbour, "Nothing else matters really." She's made me hold my head higher on the way to toddler group (and stopped Alec from having a tantrum about leaving the house because he really was very pleased to see her coming up the hill).

2. Towards the end of song time Alec wanders out of the circle. I am stuck under Bettany so I can't follow him except with my eyes. He finds a box of books, takes one out and sits looking at it -- it's one we have at home and I can see him muttering the words, which he has memorised.

3. There has been a lot of talk about Bella, the bossy older girl character from Tweenies. I ask Alec what he likes about her. "She is beautiful and she tells me what to do," is the answer.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Holding the baby, unexpected and lying in the bath.

1. To have a mother who comes round to hold babies and wrangle toddlers while I have a nurse appointment.

2. There's been an accident on the railway so I'm expecting Nick to be home an hour late. He comes early instead, walking up the stairs just as bathtime starts to unravel.

3. To lie in a bath with something bubbly from Lush reading a Terry Pratchett book and thinking kindly of my cousin Amy who gave me the bubbles and my dad who gave me the book. Then Nick comes up with a glass of pink fizz and a few squares of chocolate wrapped in gold foil so I think kindly about him, too.

Running, The Blackberry Gate and toys.

1. I go running and take Alec in the pushchair to give Nick and Bettany some time together. Alec wants to chat and this makes it hard to count my steps and think about my breathing, but it's good to have each others' undivided attention.

2. Alec names the rarely-opened gate from the back garden to the dustbin alley "The Blackberry Gate" (the alley is a jungle and we found the most fruitful bramble ever out there last week).

3. I've been vaguely tracking a theory of child development called Wonder Weeks and it suggests that Bettany at three months old might be interested in toys that showcase different textures. I spend the day offering her bits of fabric from my clothes and the furniture to hold. It's the first time I've played with her using things (as opposed to making faces and silly noises).

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Know yourself, doing the garden and too busy.

1. "Mum, put the chocola' up high so a naughty big boy can't tinks it."
You've got to admire Alec's self-knowledge.

2. Bettany and her bouncy chair on the garden path and burn through the weeding that has been bothering me for a week and a half. I discover that one of the weeds is not a weed but a rather pretty lacy fern; and some of the bulbs are already putting green spires through the gravel ready for spring.

3. Rosey came for a visit today. We were so busy with a fretful Bettany and a busy Alec and piles and piles of laundry that I am hardly able to properly "see" her. She is off down to the ice again soon and I really wanted a proper catch-up. But while I am weeding I sit back on my heels and reflect for a moment. There are lots of things I can remember about her visit, and I think we did more "seeing" of each other than I realised.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Sleep on, dragons and rag bag.

1. Alec, Bettany and I sleep in until after 9am. Actually, Bettany sleeps on even after that.

2. The burgers we are having for lunch are Dragonfly brand. Alec and I spend a good few minutes in the difficult period just before lunch pretending to be dragons.

3. To drop off a bag of rags and old clothes at the charity shop -- they are pleased with the donation and I am pleased to clear out some junk.

Friday, September 20, 2013

First laugh, dropping off and bedtime story.

1. While I am changing Bettany I tickle her ribs and she laughs for the first time.

2. After a tough morning, to drop Alec off at nursery.

3. Nick messages to say he's going to be late, and I find myself looking forward to cuddling up and reading Alec a story (we argue about who should choose a book and because neither of us will back down I end up reading the Aeneid in Latin -- can you see why we had a tough morning?).

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Help, someone else to do it and resting all day.

1. I am ill, but I have a mother to call on for help.

2. The bed needs changing because of a nappy incident. I feel utterly defeated, but then I remember the cleaning lady is coming, and she does beds if I remember to leave the linen out for her.

3. To sit around nursing Bettany and resting all day. It's like the lovely period just after the birth when everyone was running round after me.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Oldie but goodie, can I carry her and moving castles.

1. As I am leaving the front room I ask Alec to put his pants on. When I come back he is wearing them on his head.

2. "Can I carry her?" Alec wants to take Bettany across the hall to show the vicar. The image is rather adorable, but I make an excuse and try to distract him.

3. This morning we looked briefly at a book of artwork for the film Howl's Moving Castle. This afternoon, all he wants to hear is stories about steam-powered moving castles, particularly a naughty one that runs around -- skitter skitter -- on insect feet, and a daddy moving castle that wants a mummy moving castle and a baby moving castle.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Figs, picking blackberries and shelter.

1. Janey brings a box of velvet soft figs from her neighbours' garden. The smell is incredibly evocative to me -- it makes me think of my great aunt's garden; and of walking to work through St James' Park.

2. The blackberry bush in the dustbin passage that runs along the back of our row is just loaded. Janey and I fight our way down there (Alec has to be very brave because of the undergrowth and because he thinks there might be tigers) to take advantage of the free fruit. Bettany is not impressed with our frugality and sets up a furious howling. I can imagine our neighbours starting to wonder whether I have abandoned her down among the weeds and discarded fence panels. I sing and jiggle and pick and sing and at last she settles.

3. In a sudden shower to find shelter from the rain.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Universal baby-sitter, runaway and new clothes.

1. I hear the Fireman Sam theme tune coming up from the front room, and then Nick's footsteps coming back up the stairs to join me in a 10-minute lie-in.

2. Alec makes Grandad chase him. "I can't run after you," says Grandad, who is not as steady as he once was. But Alec skitters away shrieking with laughter, and Grandad hobbles gamely after.

3. Bettany is bursting out of her 0-3 month clothes -- that's lovely because she is growing strong and sturdy. It's also nice because I have several bags of hand-me-downs that are much more pretty and girly than the gender-neutral-veering-towards-masculine newborn gear she's been wearing up until now.

PS: One I forgot from yesterday was that Nick and Alec came home from the afternoon porgle with an ancient Thomas the Tank Engine book which was a free gift from the kind lady at Hall's Bookshop.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A look round, secrets and restraint.

1. Bettany leans back out of the wrap sling to have a good look around. I don't think she can see much yet with her fuzzy eleven-week eyes but she looks so delighted and overwhelmed and surprised, as if she is taking great deep drafts of the world. After a while she snuggles up against my chest (I always wear tops with a deep V-neck these days partly to give her a bit a skin put her cheek on, and partly for nursing access) and falls asleep.

2. At what is meant to be nap-time, Alec tells me about a girl at nursery called "Lisab'th" who is "not a little girl, she's a big girl". He says, "I might go to her house one day."

3. I refrain from reading ahead in the bedtime story book, and I feel good about that because it's a dreadful weakness of mine.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Averted, comic timing and watching Bettany.

1. Catching Alec before he used his step stool to "skateboard" down the stairs.

2. In a silent hospital waiting room full of nervous, grumpy people giggling quietly to myself at Bettany's burps and farts. An ominous nappy noise five minutes before my appointment wiped the smile off my face, though.

3. The technician who smiled at Bettany in the pushchair and tickled her feet while the doctor examined me.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Going up, on the road and game over.

1. I'm a bit wary when it comes to dropping off time -- Alec has gone up a room at nursery, and I'm afraid he'll object to the change. But he sees a familiar face and runs in, shouting that he's a big boy now. It turns out that several of his favourite staff have moved up with him.

2. An elderly man trundling a shopping basket in the opposite direction pauses to look at Bettany. I stop, too, so he can have a proper see. He admires her, and then tells me that his wife lost several pregnancies early on. "It's a long time since we've had a baby. Our daughter's 52." He says that really they had two babies: "With one of them, she got to four and half months along, so baby was fully formed."
His story made me feel very grateful for my own circumstances; and I was touched that he would share with me his story of those lost babies.

3. My character in Meredith's game is killed in a skirmish with some orcs. Meredith is as dismayed as I am -- more so, I think. For me, the chance that your character might die adds a certain frisson to the game. It's like gambling, I suppose, upping the stakes by putting love into your character makes it all the more exciting.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Dance, parenting moment and discipline.

1. We talk about our plans for the day. "We've got a ballet class after lunch-"
"But I haven't got a skirt!"
"You don't need one. Men don't wear skirts for ballet. They wear... um... let's have a look on Youtube and see what men wear for ballet."
We watch Rudolph Nureyev and Margot Fontayne in Les Corsairs -- I don't know the plot, so I tell Alec it's like when Daddy comes home from work, but in a desert. And then we watched Rudolph Nureyev on The Muppet Show (which I strongly suggest you watch, too, but swallow your coffee first).

2. I had a little chuckle to myself as I marched a tantruming Alec down the High Street. My little boy was shouting, "No, no, no, I don't want to go to Baby Ballet, it scary." Another special Tunbridge Wells parenting moment, right up there with the son called Galahad. (He was the only boy in the class, but he liked it very much, especially the part where he had to go up and get a flag to wave).

3. I need to go to bed. I summon the discipline I've been lacking for the past week and I go up.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Parched, just in time and together.

1. "Do you want a glass of water?" asks one of the other mothers at toddler group while I am bubbing Bettany. "I know how it is, you get halfway through and the dry horrors strike."

2. The intense but calm concentration and grim determination on Alec's face and in his body language as we race from toddler group to home, where the potty is (he did make it and was very pleased with himself).

3. I've been avoiding looking at the two full airers in the kitchen. To work through them both with Nick.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Wet day, one at a time and nursing nest in the kitchen.

1. It's now raining (though the Met Office promised a dry day) and I have a sheet and a mattress protector on the line. There's no time to take it in; and no-where to hang it because the airers are both full with the backlog of washing. Oh well, they'll benefit from an extra rainwater rinse.

2. To relax at my parents' house: caring for one child at a time is very pleasant. I have nothing to think about except Fireman Alec's next emergency scenario; and whether or not to have another slice of Battenburg.

3. After Alec is asleep, to sit in the comfy chair that I moved into the kitchen the other day bubbing Bettany and catching up with Nick while he does the chores.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Grapefruit, development and posting.

1. This is such a sweet ruby grapefruit. It needs no sugar at all.

2. I am determined to get Alec out for a walk before it rains again and before Bettany notices that Nick doesn't lactate. Alec is not happy about this and clings to the door frame and garden gate and then plops himself heavily down in the road (he always forgets that he no longer has a big fat nappy bum). "I not want to go for a walk."
"Tough. I've got a snack and we're going up on The Common." I walk away down the street.
He picks himself up and hurries after me asking to hold my hand. He plunks himself down again 50 paces later. I walk on, he follows, asking for a nose wipe.
I'm OK with progressing like this until he calms down -- and he will calm down soon. I think proudly that three weeks ago he would have stayed sitting outside our gate until I could walk no further without losing sight of him.
Then it occurs to me that he has run after me each time because he can now imagine that I might keep on walking past the end of our street without coming back for him. It puts such a strange ache in my heart.

3. To post a batch of proof reading through a letterbox and run home, all free.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

New shoes, our spot and suspicious.

1. Alec's stampy new shoes. They are only half a size bigger than the last pair, but they look enormous. They smell of new leather. He is very pleased because they have a dinosaur on the sole and a 3D lenticular dinosaur on the side (Nick says it's lucky he likes them because they were the only pair in his size in the entire shop).

2. To bub Bettany in my cosy spot on the sofa under the front room window and read a new copy of Mslexia.

3. The suspicious face that Bettany makes just after she has latched on. She thinks someone is going to steal her bub (Alec has been known to knock her off and demand some for himself -- I am rather severe when he does this).

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Obedience, a kind word and using the pot.

1. While I'm feeding Bettany and waiting to chat with the breastfeeding peer supporter I discover that Alec will when asked trot away and fetch items from the pushchair which is parked round the corner and just out of sight.

2. When I see that the couple at the table next to us in the cafe are reading that newspaper that I don't give any attention to I immediately assume that they are going to disapprove of me and my unruly brood. I unpack everyone and organise them so they are comfortable. I am ready for a fight -- either from the couple or from my children.
Then the wife says very kindly "You've got your hands full." and then "You're doing very well." I am quite overcome and feel like bursting into tears.

3. Alec asks for the pot right in the middle of lunch. We've just sat down in a busy cafe. I have been asking him if he wants to go every 15 minutes all morning (he said he did once, and we ran down three flights of stairs only to have him deny everything).
"You don't, do you?"
"Mmm, no." Then a moment later he says. "I really need to widdle."
"Would you watch our things?" I ask the mother at the next table. I am stuffing Bettany back into the sling, grabbing the travel pot and the changing bag and trying to unstick Alec who has wedged his head into the back of his chair (don't ask).
"How long will you be?"
"Two minutes," I say over my shoulder as we fly towards the family loo. "Maybe five," I add more honestly.
Alec refuses to use the pot that I have been carrying round all morning because "It too small." It becomes more appealing when I show him that the only alternative is the terrifying porcelain thing in the corner (we'll work on that later). The relief I feel when he produces makes my praise for this achievement feel very authentic.


Friday, September 06, 2013

Warm-cold, fussing and a little work.

1. To lie in my mother's bed with Alec and Bettany piled on top of me and Uncle Rob nearby. I am warm but the morning air coming in the open window is sharp and cold on my face.

2. The mother fussing over Robert's packed lunch and a small food parcel for us.

3. To get a call about a tiny bit of work.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Uncle, walking away and stubble.

I'm setting a tiny housekeeping mission once a week over here. Do join in and talk about your experiences.

1. My brother carefully dabbing dribble off Bettany's chin.

2. As we set off on an early evening walk, to hear Alec shrieking with laughter as he escapes Granny's clutches... again.

3. To come out of the woods and to see an open field in which stubble shines in the low evening sun.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Horse, quote and getting out.

1. He asks me to put the reins on him because he wants to pretend he is a horse.

2. 'Halp! Halp!' Alec has climbed up but is not willing to climb down again. I follow him up the rock, wary because Bettany in the sling is altering my centre of gravity. When I arrive he says 'Oh, thank goodness you've come!'

3. The tiny achievement of getting everyone out of the house.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

One cup, bramble and a day with Tibby.

1. A really delicious cup of coffee -- and not spoiling it by having a second.

2. Pulling down a bramble so Alec can pick the blackberries off it.

3. Godfather Timothy who does not judge and understands how tough it is to be two.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Earwax, glass of shiraz and cat come home.

1. A tiny amber bead of wax in the hollow of Bettany's ear -- it's the first I've seen and I'm glad because it shows another of her systems is working as it should.

2. A glass of wine with lunch. And afterwards, feeling soft, heavy and sleepy as I settle Alec down for his nap.

3. We've been looking for a friend's lost cat this weekend. Towards the end of the evening the message comes through that she's been sighted in the garden.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

No alarms, someone else making supper and long stories.

1. Grilling food here sets off the smoke alarm so we don't bother any more. It occurs to me that I could cook the lamb chops that have been haunting my dreams on a disposable barbecue. So we do, and they are delicious.

2. I am feeding Bettany so I can't make supper. Nick produces perfect beans on toast for Alec and me as if by magic.

3. We are a bit puzzled by Alec's enthusiasm for Beatrix Potter's Pigling Bland, a frankly disturbing tale of pig theft and imprisonment. And the gory tale of Squirrel Nutkin with the offerings of dead mice and moles. And for the convoluted stories about Little Grey Rabbit. It dawns on us that these stories are all long -- the cunning little devil is determined to stretch out storytime by any means possible. I suppose I prefer a lengthy story to potty requests that yield just a thimbleful of wee; and the pathetic 'I huuuuunnnnnngry' or the heart-rending 'I wait for Daddy to come'.

Art book, gossip and watermelon.

1. Among my birthday presents is a new book of Tove Jansson's art, featuring lots of bits I've never seen before. 2. Stopping for a ...